Greg Foat / Aleksi Heinola / Teemu Åkerblom ‘Gone To The Cats’ LP (Jazzagression) 4/5

‘Gone to the Cats’ is the new project from Finnish label, Jazzaggression records, pairing pianist Greg Foat with drummer Aleksi Heinola and bassist Teemu Åkerblom.

Recorded in Norway last year, this largely improvised set draws heavy inspiration from lush 1970s jazz-funk stylings… Well, musically at least it seems to draw from that well as its inspiration but as relates to the grander, over-arching theme of the project as a whole then it would seem that a fondness for cats was the source of its affection. And that much is certainly obvious just from a cursory glance at the tracklist which includes names like ‘Catnip Dreams’ and ‘Cigarettes, Beer and Cat Hair’. It’s unknown to me whether that comes from a genuine appreciation for the titular furry feline or whether that comes as a playful in-joke between the three players but, either way, something here has clicked and the results are genuinely fantastic.

The UK pianist Greg Foat has always seemed to thrive off the nature of collaboration and when not heading up his own ensembles as part of his own extensive catalogue partnering with a diverse range of artists like house music producer Linkwood for their ‘Linkwood & Foat’ release in 2020, his appearance within the powerhouse quartet alongside Malcolm Catto, Binker Golding and Hugh Harris, and his co-headline project with James Thorpe in 2019. Not to mention Foat’s ‘Symphonie Pacifique’ album from last year which adorned coveted spots for many ‘best of the year’ reviews. Seemingly always looking for inspired new ways to express himself musically, Foat – now having teamed with the leading Finnish names including Heinola and Åkerblom – is afforded that exciting new avenue to explore.

The somewhat prodigal talents of drummer Aleksi Heinola have previously been showcased by Jazzaggression with the label having housed the debut self-titled outing of Heinola’s Quintet in 2019. A hard bop enthusiast, Heinola was able to use the project as a way to pay homage to his heroes like Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Wayne Shorter while still presenting his musical vision through affectionate nods to Latin and Afro influences. Fellow Jazzaggression recording artist, and another from the school of hard bop, bassist Teemu Åkerblom rounds out the trio for ‘Gone to the Cats’. A frequent live performer and a multi-faceted artist who has recorded and performed live with names including Aura Flow, Flame Jazz Messengers and Tony Naissoo as well as having headed up his own quartet since 2014.

We mentioned earlier in this review that ‘Gone to the Cats’ was initially put together in Norway last year but the fact that it was recorded in a snowy cabin during the winter makes for a nice contrast to how warm and intimate these recordings actually sound. The album’s title track makes for a strong contribution to the project as does the aforementioned and atmospheric ‘Catnip Dreams’ and the project’s centrepiece – the 9+ minute trippy wonder that is ‘Yim and Yohn’.

While Jazzaggression has always had a strong focus on reissues of hidden treasures, a project like this reaffirms the label’s commitment to inspired and innovative new projects which typifies the label’s vision going forward.

Imran Mirza

Read also:
Åkerblom & Zenger ‘Live At Romu Jazz’ LP (Jazzaggression) 3/5
Ville Vannemaa ‘Cassiopeia’ LP [includes CD] (Jazzaggression) 5/5
Aleksi Heinola Quintet ‘Aleksi Heinola Quintet’ LP/CD (Jazzaggression) 5/5